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Soviet Chief 'in Robust Health,' Pravda Editor Says : Gorbachev Reported OK, Back at Work

September 29, 1987|DAN FISHER and ROBERT GILLETTE | Times Staff Writers

MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who has not appeared in public since Aug. 7, returned to work from a Crimean vacation Monday, a senior Communist Party official said.

Viktor G. Afanasyev, editor in chief of the Communist Party newspaper Pravda, said in an interview that Gorbachev will make a public appearance within two or three days.

Gorbachev's prolonged absence from the public eye had fueled rumors in the Western press that he was ill or perhaps in political trouble.

In an interview with Times reporters, the Pravda editor said Gorbachev had been vacationing in the Crimea and that he had only returned to Moscow on Saturday. Afanasyev, who is also a member of the party's policy-making central committee, said the Soviet leader "is in an excellent mood, in robust health. Quite soon he will appear in public. Just have a little patience."

The Reuters news agency quoted an unidentified Soviet official as saying that Gorbachev is scheduled to meet a French delegation today. The delegation, headed by former Premier Pierre Mauroy, includes former French Socialist Party leader Louis Mermaz.

While it is normal for Kremlin leaders to take a late-summer vacation, it is unusual for them to remain out of public view for more than a month. During the later years of Leonid I. Brezhnev's rule, Soviet television would frequently show him meeting with East European leaders or enjoying the southern sunshine.

Speculation Was Rampant

Last week, the Bild newspaper, based in Hamburg, West Germany, reported that Gorbachev had fallen ill from food poisoning and had been temporarily hospitalized. A few days later, there was a Swedish press report that he had prolonged his absence from Moscow because of the hospitalization of his wife, Raisa.

In Moscow, rumors spread that Gorbachev was suffering from diabetes. Others speculated that his campaigns for restructuring the Soviet economy and more openness in the media may have caused a political backlash among more conservative party officials.

Gorbachev last appeared publicly Aug. 7 during a meeting in Moscow with American teachers of the Russian language.

Afanasyev, who regularly attends sessions of the ruling Communist Party Politburo, which Gorbachev heads, said that during his absence, the Soviet leader had worked on a major speech that he is expected to deliver in connection with the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on Nov. 7.

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